Movie Productions Can Now Use Drones…Yes, THOSE Drones

By September 26, 2014

It seems likely that no other industry on the planet is more sensitive to technological changes than the film industry. Advancements in practical and digital effects, cost control, and miniaturization are all elements of technological life that are constantly being sought by the multi-billion dollar industry, and it looks like that desire to stay on top of new technological avenues has just taken quite a leap forward. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, otherwise known as “drones,” have just been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to be used as unmanned photographic platforms for both cinematic and television productions in the United States, according to a new report from Deadline.

MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd praised the FAA's decision as one that can help unleash Hollywood's filmmakers.

MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd praised the FAA’s decision as one that can help unleash Hollywood’s filmmakers.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had begun lobbying the FAA to allow the use of UAVs as unmanned camera platforms. At the time, federal law prohibited such use of the technology, but the MPAA partnered with seven different aerial photo and video production companies to allow an exemption in the regulatory process to allow this. At the time, MPAA Senior Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs Neil Fried made a public statement on the matter, saying, “Unmanned aircraft systems offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming. This new tool for storytellers will allow for creative and exciting aerial shots and is the latest in a myriad of new technologies being used by our industry to further enhance the viewer experience.”

It seems that the lobbying has paid off, as the FAA has allowed the initially sought regulatory exemption to permit the “limited use” of drones as camera platforms for movie and TV production. MPAA Chairman and former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd hailed the exemption, saying that it was, “a victory for audiences everywhere as it gives filmmakers yet another way to push creative boundaries and create the kinds of scenes and shots we could only imagine just a few years ago. Our industry has a history of successfully using this innovative technology overseas — making movies like Skyfall and Transformers: Age of Extinction, to name a couple — and we are proud to now be on the leading edge of its safe commercial use here at home.” There’s not yet been a response from Hollywood-based helicopter and fixed-wing pilots and their associated camera crews, as this will likely decrease their opportunities if more studios seek the regulatory exemption.

The film industry can’t claim to be the first commercial industry to take drones off of the battlefield and into the market, though, as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced the intention for the online mega-retailer to start shipping items using UAV technology.

It’ll be interesting to see if residents and tourists of the Los Angeles area begin reporting more sightings of UFOs when the studios actively begin using drones around the area…especially if its for a sci-fi movie.

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation,, The Huffington Post, and He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.